• All the shooting lines that matter!

A Brief History of Shooting Lines

By: Mark Bachmann

Jim Green introduced monofilament as a running/shooting line for distance fly casting in 1946 at the Golden Gate Casting Club. That revolutionized fly casting. Suddenly fly casters could reach what before were unobtainable distances because the small diameter monofilament greatly reduced friction between itself and the rod guides. These shooting lines were attached to high density shooting heads. Lines of this design are still used today by such legendary distance casters as 13-time World Champion, Steve Rajeff.

Monofilament is still the choice as shooting line for the majority of tournament distance casters today. Monofilament does have one problem however, after it has been wound on a reel for a while it tends to take on the shape of the reel spool, and to coil much like the Slinky kid’s toy. This is called memory.

In the early 1960's Amnesia shooting line was developed by the Sunset company. It was developed specifically as shooting line, and could be stretched to instantly lose all memory which greatly reduced the possibility of tangles. This shooting line remained popular for more than forty years.

Amnesia is no longer available, but monofilament shooting lines are still evolving. RIO SlickShooter with its oval cross section is very popular. Frog Hair Shooting Line is bombarded with gamma rays during manufacturing to make it slicker and more tangle free.

The latest monofilament shooting lines to hit the market are hollow so that they float and not only reduce friction in your rod guides, but also reduce friction when contacting the water. A very popular friction cutting shooting line is Varivas AIRS, a monofilament line, which has a ridged exterior caused by six hollow interior air chambers. It is incredibly slick and could add many feet to your casts.

Although monofilament shooting lines are extremely popular, they are not easy to hang on to, especially during cold weather. To solve this problem, RIO came up with GripShooter Shooting Line, which is their oval SlickShooter monofilament and has a coated section of floating "Handling Line" to give the caster a better grip. Being able to control your grip on the line while casting is paramount to being able to cast well.

For many anglers, the easiest shooting line to grip is braided monofilament. My favorite is Airflo Miracle Braid, which is a braid surrounding a solid core. Miracle Braid has proven to be durable, and comparatively tangle free if a Spey Swivel is used. Theoretically, because the braided line has intermittent contact with your rod guides, it reduces friction more than lines which have constant contact with the guides.

Shooting heads and shooting lines quickly migrated from the tournament scene to fishing water. Anglers found that they could cast much further with this new system. Suddenly shooting heads were available in many different densities from high floating to deep sinking. Anglers took these new lines to large rivers for salmon and steelhead as well as to the saltwater or anywhere long casts were needed.

The Cortland Line Company introduced fine diameter coated fly lines which became popular as shooting lines with anglers during the 1970's. Larry Schoenborn, while he owned Larry's Sport Centers, sold hundreds of these lines in the Portland, Oregon area between 1973 and 1980. These coated fly line type shooting lines remain popular today, having been proven by hundreds of anglers multiplied by hundreds of days of on the water.

Another new shooting line that also has friction reducing ridges on its surface is the Airflo Ridge Line. This line is suppler than monofilament and handles really well. Since the friction reducing ridges run lengthwise of the line, they are pretty easy on your hands.

RIO Powerflex Max Shooting Line and RIO ConnectCore are two of the latest developments in a coated type of shooting line. They are exceptionally slick and tangle free because they are built on a monofilament core. Instead of using ridges or other patterns in the coating to reduce friction, RIO built the surface of their shooting lines exceptionally smooth, and they are the easiest on your hands. Last summer, Patty and I were fortunate to catch very many Dorados using RIO shooting heads and Powerflex Core shooting lines. We will use this system while fishing the Sea of Cortez for years to come.

Many fly fishers using two-hand rods have switched to shooting head type fly lines, and there is much discussion about which shooting lines work best in that environment. All the shooting lines mentioned above are adaptable to steelhead/salmon rivers. The interchangeability of shooting head Spey lines allows an angler to instantly adapt to changing weather/water conditions without carrying extra reel spools.

Airflo Ridge, RIO PowerFlex Max, and RIO ConectCore monofilament core shooting lines all have seamless loops for attaching shooting heads.

Lately there has been renewed interest in shooting lines. As you can see, there are a wide variety of materials available. Designs are constantly evolving and competition between companies is fierce. The staff at The Fly Fishing Shop is always experimenting and because of it, we're always on the cutting edge.

Every shooting line on this page has been thoroughly tested by our staff for multiple weeks on the water. After all, beyond acquiring better casting skills, reducing friction during the shoot is one of the easiest ways to achieve greater casting distance. For this reason, monofilament shooting lines are pretty much universal in the distance casting tournament game.

Most experienced steelheaders that use shooting heads also use monofilament shooting lines as well. This is because monofilament is very durable, comparatively inexpensive, and creates the least amount of friction. Monofilament, especially perfectly round monofilament, is easiest on the hands where a lot of stripping is being done.

Monofilament is most useful during warmer months for lighter Spey outfits.  I regularly use OPST Lazar Line when fishing #4-#6 weight outfits for summer steelhead or trout. During the warm months mono is easier to hang on to. especially when lighter weight lines and flies are used.

Coated Fly Line Shooting Lines and Hollow Braided Monofilament Shooting Lines are both easier to hang onto than monofilament shooting lines. They tend to have less memory in cold weather too, so they are more predictable when controlling loops during the stripping process. Because they do create more friction than monofilament they tend to be meaner to your hands. A saltwater trip can wear some serious grooves in your fingers. Most Spey outfits for beginners come equipped with a fly-line shooting line because it is easier for beginning anglers to see and to control. In this category, RIO ConnectCore, RIO Powerflex Max Shooting Line, and Airflo Ridge Line shooting lines are superb. Airflo Ridge 30-pound is the easiest to see against most backgrounds.

Hollow braided monofilament polyethylene shooting lines such as Scientific Anglers Braided PE  have the least amount of memory of any type of shooting lines. They are also very lightweight, so they float very high and are extremely easy to hold off the water when you need to fish over the top of an unruly current tongue. These braided lines are extremely easy to hang onto when your hands are wet and cold. This makes casting easier because the release becomes more predictable than any line that wants to slip out of your fingers.

I regularly use all the shooting lines described within this article, and have pretty much relegated monofilament shooting lines to summer fishing with Scandi heads or saltwater trips. Hollow braided polyethylene shooting lines are currently favored for winter Skagit-Head work.